Hasani Chapman: A new-found purpose

As a kid, Hasani Chapman loved to read Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain and Langston Hughes. In sixth grade at Seat Pleasant Elementary, he was chosen “Most Likely to Succeed.” He attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School, among the best in Prince George’s County, and scored nearly 1200 on the SAT.

Yet, when Hasani reached the University of Maryland, his interest in school began to falter. At college, he ignored his work, preferring to hang out with friends and party. His grade point average fell to less than 2.0, he says, and he stopped going to class.

He floated from one low-paying job to another and became, as he describes it, a self-styled community activist, trying to talk prostitutes and street-level drug dealers into getting off the streets and going back to school.

“We were like the Guardian Angels,” he says. “We provided alternatives.”

But Hasani was eventually drawn into criminal activity, dabbling in selling marijuana and being implicated in a 1999 robbery for which he says he was sentenced to probation. His life in shambles, Hasani decided to seek guidance from an old Dreamer classmate, Tiffany Alston, whom he hadn’t seen since high school.

Tiffany, who graduated from U-Md. and went on to get a law degree at the University of the District of Columbia, suggested that Hasani call their old mentor, Tracy Proctor.

Proctor invited Hasani to help him with a second class of Dreamers he was mentoring and get himself back on track.

“You’re an adult, you need to handle these situations as an adult and be mature enough to take care of yourself,” Hasani remembers Proctor telling him.

Hasani loved teaching. “For the first time,” he says, “I found my purpose.”

After his teaching stint, Hasani became a father and enlisted in the Army. He is a sergeant stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia.

He has plans to take courses in criminal justice and to return to teaching.

“We didn’t appreciate it,” he says of the scholarship offer from Washington Bullets owner Abe Pollin and his friend Melvin Cohen. “It’s like finding a rare jewel or a diamond and not knowing what it’s worth. It’s a rock to you. You don’t know what it is.”

Paul Schwartzman specializes in political profiles and narratives about life, death and everything in between.
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